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Early Exit Poll Indicates Swedish Vote Against Euro Currency - 2003-09-14

An early exit poll by Swedish public television shows that Swedes have voted no to the euro common currency. The survey indicates about 52 percent of the votes were against the euro and 46 percent in favor. Official results will be released later. The referendum comes just days after the killing of popular foreign minister Anna Lindh, a strong backer of the euro.

Critics of the euro said it would mean higher prices, less money for Sweden's cradle-to-grave welfare state and a loss of control over Sweden's economy. Critics also argued that the euro is risky and that being under the European Central Bank's monetary policy, which limits budget deficits, interest rate and inflation, would hurt Sweden's economy.

Opinion polls earlier had indicated that backers of the euro had picked up support following the killing of Foreign Minister Lindh, who was a strong campaigner for the euro.

The vote was being closely watched by Britain and Denmark, the other two EU nations that do not use the euro. Britain has not yet decided on whether to put the issue before voters. Denmark rejected the euro in a 2000 referendum.

Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, a Social Democrat, was leading the drive for Sweden do adopt the euro. He has said a no vote would leave the country without a voice when the European Union makes key economic decisions.

Supporters also said accepting the euro will help the economy of Sweden, a nation of nine million, by improving trade with the 12 nation zone that already uses the common currency. They argued that a small currency like the Swedish krona is more vulnerable to speculation and other pressures than the euro, which is the world's second largest currency after the dollar.

All of this was in the shadow of the murder of popular foreign minister Anna Lindh who was stabbed by a man in a Stockholm department store Wednesday, and died Thursday. Police are circulating video pictures of a dark-haired man in a baseball cap and sweater. The killing stunned the nation. Swedes say election day is usually a festive occasion, but the killing has put a dark cloud over the event.